The budgets of four cities should be examined to make sure that money raised through a state tax on beer is being spent to arrest and treat drunken drivers, the Citizens Council on Alcoholic Beverage Control decided Wednesday.
Council Member Duayne Johnson said he will ask the audit subcommittee of the legislative management committee to authorize performance audits of Cedar City, Orem, South Ogden and Salt Lake City.If Johnson's request is approved, each city's books would be reviewed by the legislative auditor general's office to determine whether it is in compliance with a 1983 law.
That law, which imposed a 31/3-cent tax on each 12-ounce container of beer sold in the state, requires that the money be distributed to cities and counties for improved drunken driving enforcement and the treatment of offenders.
But council members were told last month by Richard K. Howard, director of the highway safety program for the state Public Safety Department, that local police chiefs have complained to him that they never saw the money.
Howard was asked to select several cities he thought might not be using the money properly. In a memo to Johnson, Howard named Orem, Springville, Vernal and South Ogden.
The council, however, wanted to include a Southern Utah community and Salt Lake City, so they substituted Cedar City and Salt Lake City for Springville and Vernal.
Howard said he chose cities where he had contact with local law enforcement authorities who told him that the money passed out by the state was being included in the overall budget instead of specifically set aside for alcohol-related programs.
"As far as I can tell, the money in these cities is going into a general fund. I'm not sure how it's used," he said. "The only way to know is for an audit to be performed."
Howard said he suspected that most cities handle the tax money the same way. Similar questions have been raised since the law was passed by a Legislature that made drunken driving its top priority.